(Hotlines and Online)
Hotlines in the U.S.
All hotlines listed below are free and confidential.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day.
Services are also available for veterans, and for Spanish speakers.
24-hour helpline – 877-870-HOPE (4673) (Toll free)
Samariteens – 800-252-8336
866-488-7386 – a hotline for LGBT youth
(877) 565-8860 – a hotline for transgender people.
Crisis Text Line – 741741
According to Crisis Text Line’s web site, if you text 741741, you can receive a text from a trained crisis counselor within minutes. Although the text line is intended for teens, the website states that counselors do not ask for the texter’s age, and nobody is turned away.
This information is from the group’s web site:
- You text 741741 when in crisis. Anywhere, anytime.
- A live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds quickly.
- The crisis counselor helps the teen move from a hot moment to a cool calm to stay safe and healthy using effective active listening and suggested referrals – all through text message using CTL’s secure platform.
Online Chat and Email
Note that the Samaritans international website states that people who send an email typically receive a response within 12 hours. The site also notes that names are immediately removed from emails, and emails are deleted after 30 days.
The Trevor Project, which reaches out to LGBT youth, provides instant-messaging chat on Mondays and Fridays, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern standard time.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also has chat available, every day from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
This site contains lists with dozens of sites, in addition to the sites above, where a suicidal individual can discuss their problems via instant messaging, chat rooms, email, text, and online support groups. The site is ideal for someone who does not want to talk with someone on the phone about their suicidal thoughts. It offers healthy options for receiving help. (I say “healthy,” because unfortunately danger lurks on many Internet sites, where “pro-suicide” folks actually encourage suicide.)
Other Online Resources
Here you will find an impassioned and persuasive plea, as well as information resources for help, coping with challenges faced by suicidal individuals, relevant books, and useful web sites.
This online handbook provides information and food for thought for suicidal individuals, with material addressing what to do when suicidal, how to make sense of suicidal thoughts, and ways to decrease suicidal thoughts and prevent more suicidal episodes. (Sponsored by Simon Fraser University in Canada.)
This website contains a wealth of information for people who think about dying by suicide or who have made an attempt or had such thoughts in the past. The Resources page is rather exhaustive, and I highly recommend it. It provides a list not only of crisis hotlines, but also of various creative projects aimed at spreading information about the suicidal experience.
Here, the Samaritans answer four important questions about suicide: 1) Why do people choose suicide? 2) If someone wants to die by suicide, why not let him or her? 3) What happens to the people left behind? 4) Can I really help someone who has decided on suicide?
This page by the Samaritans provides advice on how to help someone you care about who may be considering suicide.
This booklet by the VA is geared toward family members of veterans who survived a suicide attempt, but the information largely is applicable to all attempt survivors and their families. The guide contains good advice on talking with children about a suicide attempt of a family member, separated by age groups: 4-8 year olds; 9-13 year olds; 14-18 year olds.
Like its sister brochure for individuals with a recent attempt (see further below), this brochure targets the time immediately following the attempt, when the attempt survivor is in the emergency room and in the process that follows. At the same time, much of the material is applicable to all families experiencing a suicidal crisis, whether or not an attempt has occurred recently or at all. (The brochure is by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.)
Verbal signs, physical changes, new behaviors, and triggering events linked to suicide are described here. (Sponsored by the Samaritans.)
This booklet begins with information about the practical logistics immediately following a suicide, including details about a possible autopsy, cleaning of the home if the suicide occurred there, organ donation – and more. The second part of this booklet addresses the emotional aftermath of suicide bereavement, including common reactions to the suicide of a loved one, as well as the process of grieving. (Sponsored by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.)
This site contains abundant information about the experience of losing a loved one to suicide. It includes a blog, recommended books, memorials for people who died by suicide, and a community forum. The site states, “In our forum, survivors can contact others with similar losses, share their stories and discuss the many facets of healing from loss by suicide. It operates like a 24/7 support group, with a team of trained moderators and a mental health clinician who contributes regularly.”
This blog for survivors of suicide loss is authored by Franklin Cook. His father died by suicide almost 30 years ago, and since then he has served as a voice for suicide loss survivors in numerous national roles. A highlight of his blog is the Survivor Outlook section, which features first-person accounts of other suicide loss survivors. The Grief After Suicide blog also contains numerous other resources, including lists of suicide loss survivor websites, support groups, online discussion forums and chat rooms.
Of all the online guides to surviving the suicide of a loved one, this may be the most comprehensive. Written by a man whose wife died by suicide, the guide includes information on the “emotional rollercoaster” that follows a suicide, myths and facts about suicide, suggestions for coping, narratives from other survivors, and inspirational words for surviving, coping, and healing after the loss of a loved one to suicide. (Sponsored by the American Association of Suicidology.)
This Facebook page is geared toward everyone affected in some form or other by suicide or mental illness. Yet the people who seem to follow it most passionately are people who have lost a loved one to suicide, hence its inclusion here as a resource for suicide loss survivors. The page’s administrator Barb Hildebrand is tireless in her advocacy and compassion for people touched, in any way, by suicide. Because of the page’s popularity, you can comment on a post or photo and usually watch the discussion grow in just minutes. As of February 2015, more than 110,000 people were following the page.
Lists of Support Groups for Suicide Loss Survivors
This site, sponsored by the American Association for Suicidology, and this site, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, both provide directories for support groups nationwide for people who have lost a loved one to suicide. Some support groups are led by a mental health professional, while others are led by participants themselves.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention trains people who have survived a suicide loss to reach out to others newly bereaved by suicide. The volunteers will visit new survivors and offer peer support, at the survivor’s request. Click here to request an in-person or remote visit.
“Today may feel like the hardest day of your life,” this brochure states. It directs information to someone who very recently attempted suicide and is now leaving the emergency room, but in fact much of what it states about the recovery process, safety planning, and coping applies to anyone who has attempted suicide or still considers it. (The brochure is by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.)
The creator and author of this blog, Cara Anna, is herself a suicide attempt survivor. (She also runs the blog attemptsurvivors.com; see below.) The highlights of this site are its Resources page, with a list of resources and projects dedicated to suicide attempt survivors, and its page of interviews with attempt survivors. She has conducted more than 50 such interviews, and each has its own gems.
Although this blog (attemptsurvivors.com) contains much useful information for people who have attempted suicide, unquestionably its major highlight is the personal accounts of attempt survivors. Readers can find here a community of like-minded souls, people who understand well the challenges that can lead to a suicide attempt and the further challenges that can follow it. The personal accounts also reflect the hope, growth, and resilience that often accompany the healing process. (This blog is sponsored by the American Association for Suicidology.)
There is a wealth of information available – too much to list here – for mental health professionals who want to learn more about risk assessment, intervention, psychotherapy, and legal risk management with individuals at risk for suicide. Here I provide a brief list of key books:
By A. Wenzel, PhD, G.K. Brown, PhD, & A.T. Beck, MD
Cognitive therapy (also called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT) is one of only a few treatments that has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing suicide risk and attempts. This book describes in specific detail the cognitive therapy techniques that have helped reduced suicide attempts.
By Shawn C. Shea, MD
This book should be required reading not only for students, but also for mental health professionals at all levels of experience. As I explain in a separate post, it describes techniques to help assess a person’s suicidal thoughts and intent. It also provides extensive information, in a highly readable, non-academic style, about suicide, its stigma, and its possible causes, while also delving into the specifics of suicide risk documentation and decision making.
By R.I. Simon, MD
The author may well be the foremost authority on the legal aspects of psychotherapy with suicidal clients, in particular the risk for malpractice lawsuits following a client’s suicide. He provides good, sound advice in this book for managing suicide risk and providing competent care. He states his positions forthrightly; in fact, he approaches sacrilege when criticizing commonly held notions in suicide risk assessment. For example, he asserts that suicide risk assessment forms encourage clinical lassitude and increase malpractice risk. And he argues that clinicians are practicing unethically when they do not provide after-hours coverage for emergencies and instead refer a patient to call 911 or go to an emergency room in the event of an emergency. All the while, he bases his arguments on prior legal cases and case histories.
By Edwin Shneidman, PhD
In this book, the author (considered the “grandfather” of modern suicidology) focuses on psychological pain as the cause of suicide. Of course, this seems obvious, but in reality, much of the literature about suicide over the last few decades has focused on biological, sociological, and psychiatric risk factors for suicide, looking at statistics instead of individuals’ personal accounts of their pain. Shneidman elucidates this pain intensely, and argues that the only way to really prevent a person’s suicide is to fundamentally understand that person’s pain and to help reduce it.
By M. David Rudd, PhD, Thomas Joiner, PhD, and M. Hasan Rajab, PhD
Cognitive behavioral therapy has demonstrated effectiveness at treating depression and suicidality. This book describes, in extensive detail, one CBT approach to helping suicidal clients. Topics go beyond the standard fare of theory, risk factors, and risk assessment. The material has immediate relevance to clinical practice, with information on crisis intervention, symptom management, cognitive restructuring (the book titles this section “Changing the suicidal belief system and building a philosophy for living”), and skills training.
By Thomas Joiner, PhD
This book by a renowned suicidologist, whose father died by suicide, describes the author’s prominent theory of suicide causation, the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide. Joiner provides evidence that key characteristics must co-exist for a person to die by suicide: 1) They perceive that they are a burden to their loved ones; 2) They experience, or perceive they experience, extreme alienation; and 3) They have become habituated in some way to physical pain or life-threatening situations, making suicide seem less frightening and formidable to them. The first two factors combine to create a desire for death, and the habituation to pain or danger enables the ability to die by suicide.
The AAS website contains material of interest to everyone on the suicide-related spectrum: professionals, survivors, crisis workers, employers, friends and loved ones, and suicidal people themselves. Geared more toward research and statistics than some sites, it still has material accessible to everyone. Especially valuable is the information on postvention (what to do after a suicide), suicide loss survivor groups, and warning signs for suicide.
Like the AAS site (above), this site offers information for everyone affected, in any way, by suicide. It also has much information about research findings, and contains a rich section on advocacy efforts and opportunities in the field of suicide prevention.
At the SAVE site, you can find an array of information for both professionals and the lay public, including a depression symptom checklist, online resources, reading lists, and more.
This is the go-to site for all sorts of information on suicide and its prevention. Especially useful to practitioners is its Best Practices Registry, which provides a list and descriptions of evidence-based practices in suicide prevention and intervention.
This site offers information geared toward suicide prevention in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth. Educators, parents, mental health professionals, and youth themselves can find meaningful help here. In particular, the site offers extensive resources to youth; see the section above, “For Immediate Help with Suicidal Thoughts.”